Here in Los Angeles, I have had friends ask me to accompany them to Koreatown for Korean food. A perfectly reasonable request, though I never know how to explain that depending on what restaurant we go to and what waitress we get, there is a good chance that I’ll be useless as a guide or host. Although I love and often crave Korean food, I rarely go to Koreatown on my own. My inability to speak, read, or even understand Korean handicaps me. It’s different when my mother’s there: she does all the talking, all the work. As a child, I got so used to the ease with which we accomplished things in Korean restaurants and stores that I was shocked to find that in my later years, when I tried to do the same things without her, I might as well have been haole, or Japanese, anything except Korean.